Seth Godin, on the weblog for his new
book, All
Marketers Are Liars
, tells a story
that is heavily relevant to software developers today. He talks about how
Home Depot, having conquered the mom and pop hardware shops, has been
struggling to grow.

The problem, says Seth, is that Home Depot continues to sell a story that appeals to only a specific worldview: that of Home Depot geeks.

        Many people, though, see nothing but dread here. They see a store
        with no helpful salespeople, a jumble of product, none just quite
        right, a very very long checkout line and fear.

Home Depot, with its tall, garage-like appearance, and its endless piles of screws and bolts—all alike, is a nightmarish place for someone like me. To confirm Seth’s assertion, when I’m looking for a light bulb, there’s no way in hell I’m going to go to a Home Depot for it. I only go there when I absolutely have to.

So how is this relevant for software developers? If you are a software developer, think about this concept of customer "worldview" and how it applies to you and your career. Which worldview are you really selling your story for?

For most of us, it’s the worldview of a fellow software developer. But, software developers aren’t the ones that need our services. Scared business people do. It’s the Home Depot problem! We lose our jobs to offshoring or experience salary deflation, and we blame the customers. How can they send our jobs overseas? Why don’t they understand what we’re worth?

Perhaps they don’t understand, because you’re telling them a story that was meant for other programmers to hear. It may even be a story, as is the case with me and Home Depot, that is scaring them. This one may have "worked" for years, but you see where it’s getting us now. And, as Seth says, yelling the same story louder isn’t going to make it stick.

In fact, it’s probably just going to get annoying.